When traveling, it’s important to be an ambassador of your country. What does this mean? It means wherever you are, you are an American and whatever they think of you is what they will think of all Americans. If you strut your bikini top and leggings while you’re walking down the Champs Elysée, the French are not very likely to have the best impression of Americans. However, if you dress as they do, ask for things quietly and politely (even if you must ask in English), smile, and say “please” and “thank you”. You’ll leave them with a nice impression of Americans and thus be an ambassador of your country. It’s important to show respect to their culture, their traditions and their people just as you would if they were to visit your home town.
That being said, it’s also important to have a sense of humor when traveling. Traveling is predictably unpredictable and if you don’t have a sense of humor about it, then having to take a two hour taxi ride instead of the planned 20 minute train ride due to a strike will send your mood down the drain pretty quickly.
To put you in the laughing mood, here’s an excerpt from “Wicked French for the Traveler” by Howard Tomb.
“France has found favor with painters since Neanderthal times. Some of the greatest artists, Picasso and Van Gogh among them, left their native lands and moved to France permanently. Some historians believe that French sunlight has special qualities that bring colors to life for artists. Other experts insist that certain painters had simply bounced too many checks in their own countries. Whatever the reason for their presence, artists have left millions of paintings and sculptures in France. You won’t be able to avoid seeing some of them during your stay.”
Art museums have been idea pickup spots for centuries, since they naturally screen out the unwashed, thereby ensuring that the pool of potential mates is held at a relatively high intellectual an social level. But simply entering a house of worship such as the Louvre or Pompidou is not enough. Nor is the ‘knowing what one likes’ and gawking at it. Once muse en mettre plein la vue like Philippe de Montebello to be sure to impress one’s fellow art lover and prospective victim.
Note: Do not attempt to pronounce van Gogh. It sounds something remotely like ‘van gohjgkhh’. Stick with Vincent, ‘van-SAHN’.
Humorous phrases (with French translation) to use in the museum:
Notice how the fruit is dramatically outlined in black.
Remarquez comme le fruit est soulingé en noir d’un façon dramatique.
Cézanne’s little limes almost leap into your mouth.
Les petits citrons verts de Cézanne vous sautent pratiquement dans la bouche.
Have you noticed Monet’s bold use of blue here?
Avez-vouz remarqué l’audace du bleu dans ce Monet?
The lone water lily signifies the essential loneliness of existence.
Le Nénuphar isolé incarne la solitude essentielle de l’existence.
Let’s talk about it over a cup of espresso.
Parlons-en tout en prenant un café express.
And while you’re out at the café with your new beau or belle from the museum, you should follow some important café etiquette with your new beau or belle from the museum, you should follow some important café etiquette:
No matter how many espressos you drink while you’re there:
- Do not sing, even if you suddenly realize how to speak French.
- Do not make political speeches or announcements
- Do not slap strangers on the back
- Do not force-feed strangers or their dogs